I have had a number of inquiries and even outright accusations of being overambitious for running for the number one office in the land; the office of the president. I have my personal reasons and also a very logical one. I’ve not particularly been a homeboy until recently when I had the opportunity and space to fall in love again with Akure, the town in which I partly grew up. So I’m not ashamed to say my own politics does not start from the local unit. It needn’t. We are all in politics to make different impacts and my impact is calibrated to be national. My ideas are national and global in nature. I’m the guy who is intervening in global economic debates and giving a Nigerian perspective. I’m the one who is trying to apply what we have read in textbooks from an African perspective. I try to build models that incorporate Nigerian and Africa’s peculiar variables and that I believe, is very honorable. In fact, absolutely necessary at this point.
I also believe that Nigeria’s serious problems right now, are right at the very top. We have macro issues around visioning. Where should we be heading as a nation and people? Why are we where we are today? What can be done to take us forward rapidly? Where do we find the sense of urgency? Do we know how we rank in the comity of nations and how we are regarded? Those are critical questions that need to be asked. And more.
Apart from visioning we also have issues with the ability to take serious decisions that affect the whole country. Take for instance the serious operational issues that now masquerades as ‘restructuring’? We need to rejig and experiment with an inverted allocation formula. From 54:26:20, we need to be moving to 25:35:40 in favor of our Local Governments. We need to move forward rapidly on the matters or local government autonomy as well as state policing. These are formulas we have experimented with in the past. Going back to them should not be big issues but here we are fetishizing restructuring and tearing at each other. This is a leadership and intellectual problem. Our leadership needs speed right now, and the way to achieve speed is by deploying brains. Even the most difficult issues can be intelligently tackled. For example we need to give freedom to our LGs even though the constitution says otherwise. The way to sell this is to show the states how much more they have to benefit if the current arrangement is torpedoed. Consistent engagement always works. Persistence is key. Choice of words and body language is critical. Repetition always yields results. These are not matters to be tackled by getting lost in some state assembly. A sense of urgency also requires that these big issues be tackled immediately. Nigeria has absolutely no time on its hands to adopt a slow coach approach. The longer we wait, the more we have problems like insurgency, insecurity, backwardness and every other distraction that sends us on errands we don’t intend to embark upon. Like they say, if you don’t know where you are heading, someone else will show up and take you to where they want you to be. With the short time on our hands, we need determine where we want to go, and pursue our destiny with a singularity of purpose. As things stand we are executing someone else’s agenda, not ours.
I actually pity my friends who are running for positions as senators, as they have to battle with many fraudulent ex-governors who have stolen Nigerians blind and now wish to retire to the red chambers at everybody’s expense. I pity friends who are running for house of reps, governorship and houses of assembly positions because even if they win – and I pray they do – they will subject themselves to years of bitter complaints about how the ‘structure’ is not working, and at best make loads of money for themselves and oftentimes, lose the right to protest and genuinely be part of ‘the people’ forever. Let’s call that the Dino Syndrome. That was a man who ran an anti-corruption NGO but who, as a senator, now revels in showing off his expensive cars. He has lost legitimacy forever. Perhaps he never had any.
I have processed this problem and I can summarize my finding for free. Being a president is the only role for now that gives one 100% self-responsibility – subject to the machinations of godfathers home and abroad who often send presidents on wild geese chases. Governors are complaining that they are not given free hand to determine the fates of their states. They say the part of the allocation that comes to them is too small but they seem totally unable to do anything about that. Governors also complain that they inherit too much in terms of debts from their predecessors; a very potent reason for the non-performance of most if not all of them. Yet they get there and incur more debts as governance in Nigeria is now akin to a one-way-street of indebtedness. Local Governments are totally emasculated by their governors as we can see.
All the headships at that level is determined solely by the governor. The people’s opinions don’t matter anymore. The state houses of assembly are controlled with iron hand by the governors. Even the national assembly which seem to have more latitude because of the level of scrutiny by the people, is largely a useless entity which Nigerians finance with N138billion yearly (plus extra in terms of bribery and kickbacks), where elected representatives/senators go to show off their weird sense of fashion, argue inanities, break each others’ heads occasionally, collect extended recesses and achieve next to nothing. Indeed one should ask; how many laws do a people need? Have we kept 10% of the laws in our statute books? Why have two houses to discuss laws all day all year when we could deploy such funds to better use?? So we can see that all other political positions in this country are full of complaints and excuses even though they are replete with opportunities for those who get there to reposition themselves financially. I just don’t believe that that is what one should be in politics for at this moment.
I was spurred to write this article after I read Professor Pat Utomi’s statement about why he is running for Governor in Delta State – after he had run for president of Nigeria years ago. I recall meeting Prof at the lobby of the hotel in Tinapa in 2009 and pleading with him to run for president. He later did – not on the basis of my plea certainly. I want to interrogate whether guys like him are making the right decisions. I want to preempt that if he wins he shall soon be complaining about how Okowa stole all the money and borrowed till eternity and there was little he could do – except borrow some more so that his successor will complain even more. 100% of our recent governors have done this exactly. As a matter of fact, the model we have now can hardly make any state thrive. Even the much-revered Lagos State is sitting on unsustainable debts for which there aren’t commensurate projects. Nigeria needs a new vision, right from the top. We need a new model of governance that can only be explained and driven by a new leader. I would have urged Utomi to keep trying to be president, and offering his ideas. For sure only one person can be president at a time, but I understand the value of adding our ideas and visions to the pot and pursuing such ideas from our different perches, so that this country could truly move forward. I believe we should all run for president. I had written before that Nigeria actually needs a million leaders. We need more people to get involved in rescuing this nation. We may be up to 100 jostling to be president right now in this period of emergency. As unprecedented as that is, we aren’t enough.
These are the statements from Pat Utomi, which caught my eyes, and for which I know he is on a wrong move – even if he wins;
“If you have a conscience and you watch a people live a fate worse than death, then your spirit must verge on being broken.. complaints from various quarters that family members continue to die untimely due to accidents triggered by the hardly motorable state of Delta roads, leaves me with a feeling of despondence… The infrastructure challenges in Delta State dehumanises our people.… In addition, our environment has become so deplorable as to seem like a dust bin…my conscience kills me some more with the death from avoidable causes, of every man, woman or child, due partly to poor healthcare in the State… Why is Delta State the domain of poverty in spite of such incredible endowments, human and material resources? …Delta has lost its glory and its dignity, and it is now literally on its knees begging to be rescued from the rot of many years, which is the result of poor governance, leadership failure and the incompetence of successive PDP administrations that turned their backs on our people. Delta State receives very huge allocations from the federation account, yet extreme poverty exists in the State… What is more, Delta State is already hugely indebted, thus mortgaging its future generations. And the State acts as though it is unaware of our level of indebtedness. Worse still, the State’s infrastructure is evidently in shambles… The State has also become barren of corporate life. Most companies have moved away from Delta…. Furthermore, the education sector faces numerous challenges… We have also lost our top position in sports and youth development.
This continuing decay must stop. Nothing stops Delta from becoming a network of Industrial Parks linked by world-class physical and social infrastructure… With our current population growth rates, not creating job opportunities for our youth could mean that we would reap a whirlwind of anarchy… We are being given a new opportunity by our democratic process to have a new management that can transform Delta and bring happy days back to all; rich and poor, male and female, urban and rural; young and old. We must seize this opportunity.
We all will be judged surely. We will be judged by our children. We will be judged by history. And ultimately, we will be judged by God…Anybody who remembers judgment and is not moved to do something positive about our situation in Delta State should probably never have been born…”
I have painstakingly extracted very important aspects of Utomi’s speech. There is not a word there that is not relevant to Nigeria as a whole. That is one. Secondly, I don’t see how he can achieve a single one of his dreams for Delta with the current governance and constitutional arrangement. Thirdly there is no way you can turn Delta State into el Dorado within Nigeria except you fix the whole stinking shebang! It has never happened before that one state will leap into the 22nd Century while the rest remain in the Dark Ages where we all are presently. And given how tough it is to get a profound change going constitutionally, I believe more effort is needed at the executive level to get a honest debate along, which will culminate in salutary amendments and be the precursor of the massive restructuring that the people now validly demand.
We all should be running for the presidency. We need serious creative and positive disruption at that level. Nothing less will do, and the time is now. Pat Utomi should try again for President. That’s my take.